The beach lays in a cliff area, filled with rock-hewn caves, that have been used throughout the island's history for a variety of uses. From digging in the caves on the beach, researchers have learned a lot about the history of the area, from the Minoan period, and on. During the Roman period these caves were used as burial sites.
In the 1960's young Americans discovered the beach looking for peace and love. So the place that during the Minoan period was the city's port of Festus, and in the days of Greek mythology, the Greek god Zeus brought Princess Europe here - to the beach of the "hippies" who opposed the Vietnam War, sang and played the Beatles and Bob Dylan. They lived in the ancient Roman burial caves, and turned into communities that suntanned naked and sang protest songs.
This is where Joan Baez was discovered, the singer who began her career in Matala and became a national figure in America in the late 1960's.
Today the beach still attracts many tourists, some come to enjoy the sixties atmosphere and its free spirit, while others come to Matala for the small towns, the lively nightlife here, and the hotels in the north end.